Civil Rights activist addresses students

“The black community has to be willing to set its own agenda and organize its own community.”  Powerful words from civil rights leader, D’Army Bailey, who offered words of wisdom to a freshman history class Thursday in the B.L. Perry building at Florida A&M.

A former judge, Bailey is the founder of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. 

More than 70 students listened attentively as Bailey read a passage from his book and discussed his encounter with well-known activist, Malcolm X. 

“When Malcolm came along…there was certain ringing of truth in his urgency,” Bailey said.
Bailey is the author of, “Mine Eyes Have Seen: Dr. Martin Luther King’s Final Journey.” In October, he published, “The Education of a Black Radical.” 

He discussed several topics from politics to the selfishness of major corporations in America.  While Bailey admitted he is fond of President Barack Obama, he reminded students of the necessity to hold him accountable.

“We have to be very self critical of our politicians…without pressure on Obama, our interests will not be met,” Bailey said.

Bailey rocked the boat a little when he revealed that fact that many civil rights organizations are backed by the dollars of multimillion-dollar companies, which in turn, prevents them from standing up for their constituents. 

Bailey said, “There has alliance of the needy against the greedy.”

He also discussed reparations.  “Reparations is what they just did for General Motors,” Bailey said. “It’s what they did for the financial system.  Why can’t they take hundreds of millions of dollars and put it back in the communities?”

Bailey was invited to speak by the Student Government Association.  Student Body President, Gallop Franklin said Bailey was in town to interview for a television show.  He seized the opportunity. 

“We wanted to bring him here to share his life and activist work,” Franklin said. 
Student Body Vice President, Calvin Hayes, was also excited about the opportunity to hear Bailey speak. 

“That gentleman wasn’t a person who was afraid to challenge the system,” Hayes said.

“He used the system to fight for his community.”
Brooke Slauter, 18, a pre pharmacy student from Dayton, Ohio said the guest lecture was very beneficial.  

“He taught us that although we are young, we can still make a change,” Slauter said.  “It doesn’t just have to be in our state because there are always problems in the black community.”

The class instructor, Darius Young, said he got the call asking about Bailey coming to speak from David Jackson, the chairman of the History department.   Young, who is from Memphis, had always heard of Judge Bailey, and was more than delighted to have him speak to his class.

“I think it’s always important when we can have foot soldiers from the Civil Rights Movement come in and talk about what motivated them,” Young said.

Bailey left students with powerful words of motivation to fight for change.

“They can kick you out of school,” Bailey said. “You can always go somewhere else.  They can fire you from your job, but you can always stand back up.”